ll of the activities of your “Bookcase for Every Child” project have been leading up to the moment when your committee presents the bookcases, and a starter set of books, to the children and their parents. This is the highlight of the year because it means that fifty more children from disadvantaged homes will have a better chance to develop a passion for reading, do well, finish school, and perhaps college, and achieve real success in their personal lives. This also says to these children, and their parents, that people in their community care about them, which is so desperately needed in many of their lives. The looks on these children’s faces, when they receive a bookcase with their name on it, will be priceless and well worth all the time, effort, and money that were invested in your project. Here are some photos of a recent Annual Awards Ceremony.
e hold our Bookcase Literacy Banquet in mid-October and our Annual Awards Ceremony the last of April, so you can see there is ample time to build the bookcases and do the planning with no stress or pressure on anyone. We have found the best time to hold the ceremony is on a Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m., as most people have fewer conflicts at this time. We know that every community is different, so work this schedule out to fit your own needs. But you must have the Bookcase Literacy Banquet first; otherwise you won’t have the funds to build the bookcases.
Bookcase Request & Liability Waiver
owever, before you can celebrate there are certain things that must be done well to insure a successful Awards Ceremony. Your children have been selected to receive a bookcase in one of two ways. They have been selected by members of the Head Start staff, who know their needs better than anyone on your committee, or parents or their guardians who were given the opportunity to sign-up for their child to receive a bookcase on a first-come, first-served basis. In either case, a “Bookcase & Liability Waiver” must be signed and kept on file at the center. The following form should be downloaded and copies made for the number of bookcases you plan to present. This form also includes a commitment from parents that they will attend the ceremony, and take their child’s bookcase home following the ceremony.
Secure a Great Location
ne of the next questions your committee will have is where to hold the Annual Awards Ceremony. In this respect, there are a number of things to consider. First, do a survey of your community and see what facilities are available. In most cases a public school auditorium will meet your needs, there is little or no costs and this is where most of your children will be attending school. Depending on the size of your community and the success of your project, and how well it’s promoted, you may have two hundred to three hundred people attend, including children and their parents, so make sure you have adequate parking. Here in Conway we are fortunate to have found a permanent home in the spacious Faulkner County Library. Our county librarian, Ruth Voss, is a member of our committee. Of course there is an added bonus of getting all the children, their parents, and other guests, into the library.
The Importance of Publicity
o have a highly successful, well-attended Annual Awards Ceremony, it is important to have good publicity. On the surface it may seem that all you need to do is promote the ceremony, the purpose, and who is involved, but it goes much deeper than that. Your overall goal is to create awareness for the need to improve literacy, and what illiteracy is costing every single citizen, and the fact that the awards ceremony presents a great opportunity to do just that. This is why it needs to be promoted and must be first class, as perception is a strong force in the minds of your local people. Someone on your committee, or a local reporter for your local newspaper, should write an article, with one or more photos, a few days before the ceremony to let the public know that everyone is invited. If there are television stations in your area, invite them to cover it as well. Flyers and mini-posters posted on community bulletin boards -- including in the library -- is another idea to consider.
couple of weeks before the ceremony we send printed invitations to over one hundred prominent citizens in the area, to add a personal touch. Even though most of them will not attend, we are doing things right and, over time, this will have a positive impact. We also have a local cable access channel here that has been tremendously supportive as we have had nine different events to date, and they have covered every single one of them and aired them on the cable a few days after the event. It may take a few years for your project to get to this point, but we have a large full-color banner that hangs in the library that says, “Building a New Generation of Readers” and a 14- inch seal, in full color, that is affixed to the front of the speakers lectern for the television cameras and photographers to pick up when our ceremony is covered by the media.
Determine Program Participants
f you have ever been to a ceremony where it was embarrassing because it was so amateurish, you will appreciate why we go to great lengths to make our children and their parents feel so very special. Many of the parents and children have never attended a program where they were the honored guests and we want this one to make a lasting impression on them. Our Awards Ceremony takes less than an hour and we have several of our committee members participate, on a rotating basis, along with a number of invited guests to be on the program. As you can see from the program agenda below, we have an Invocation, Posting of Colors, Pledge of Allegiance, Welcome by a Dignitary, Speaker Introduction, Keynote Speaker, Presentation of the Bookcases, Closing Comments by the Chairman, and the Benediction. We also have a printed program that lets everyone know where we are during the ceremony. The program also becomes a souvenir for people to take home. This is an important event in the lives of the children and their families, and many will save the programs as a highlight of their lives, and perhaps a vital turn-around point for them.
t is important to note that we invite different people each year to participate as this is really the philosophy of the “Bookcase for Every Child” project. For example, in past years we have had our Mayor, County Judge, State Representative, City Council Member, and Prosecuting Attorney give the welcome. Over time, as we invite more and more people to become involved, our community becomes saturated with the awareness of not only our project, but the need to improve literacy, especially among disadvantaged children.
Bookcases Taken Home After Ceremony
n addition to having parents encouraged to read to their children at home, another important reason for them to attend the Awards Ceremony is so they can take their child’s bookcase home with them. In some cases, single parent mothers will need help to load the bookcase in their car. This is a good opportunity to ask young athletes to get involved in the project to provide this service, members of football, basketball, soccer, and baseball teams all have players who can be invited to ‘give back’ in this way. Some schools even have "service hours" requirements for their students, and this is one way for the students to fulfill that requirement.
A "Thank You" Means a Lot
t should be obvious, but one of the things volunteers -- those who give time, talent, and resources -- like to hear are the simple words, “Thank You.” They don’t get involved and help for this reason, but saying “thank you” costs nothing and is a sign of character and good manners -- the very qualities we are striving to teach the children who are being reared in disadvantaged homes. If we can teach these qualities, by precept and example, we have given them a real “head start” in addition to what the all-important literacy skills of being able to read, write, and communicate will bring into their lives. Your chairman, on behalf of your committee, should write a personal thank you note to those who have made a contribution to the success of your awards ceremony. In some cases a “Certificate of Appreciation” may be a good way to express your appreciation, especially when the task has been over and above the call of duty. Of course having them stand and be introduced at the Awards Banquet is another way of thanking them. Do both. (Giving them a name badge with a ribbon on it would identify them to other people, too.)